February 2022 edition: Introduction

Introduction

We are proud to publish this most recent edition of Trust – our journal for executive and governance leaders.

This edition addresses several important policy themes in the lead-in to the Schools White Paper. I’d like to start this editorial with Nick McKenzie’s fabulous article which plays on Adam McKay’s recent disaster satire movie 'Don’t Look Up.' I love Nick’s exhortation that in fact, we should look up – the point the movie also makes! But it is Nick’s citing of Michael Bungay Stanier’s TedX talk that I find really compelling for the policy environment we find ourselves in - he urges us to "stay curious a little longer.”

Staying curious a little longer seems to define this edition of Trust for me. It is the unspoken sentiment behind Steve Rollett’s reflection on CST’s discussion paper which deals with the question, What is a Strong Trust? Steve says this question speaks to the need for us to build consensus where we can about the facets of effective practice in Trusts, so that we can mobilise this knowledge for the benefit of all Trusts and, ultimately, the children within them. Let’s be curious about what our strongest Trusts are doing. Let’s explore the strong claims we can make, but also our ‘best bets’ and remain curious about further research that is needed.

Against a backdrop of speculation about the forthcoming government White Paper, Steve is also curious about Jon Severs' perspectives on the Trust sector and the role of the education press.

Maria Maltby’s reflections on Trust governance also has the air of someone who is profoundly curious. Maria brings expertise from the NHS and explores some of the similarities and differences in governing legally autonomous public-sector entities. She is a fantastic advocate for the role of governance professionals.

Still on the theme of curiosity, Tom Rees considers learning from the implementation of the Early Career Framework (ECF). For School Trusts, the ECF is not only forming part of their internal staff professional development and retention strategies, but an opportunity to contribute to the wider system challenge of teacher development.

Sufian Sadiq’s powerful article speaks to leadership, diversity, and equity. He urges us to be curious about the lack of diversity in our sector. He ends with these deeply compelling words, "we must look at the faces around us and realise we possess the power to elevate those around us. We can reach out and make a conscious effort to bring along those on the fringes, those with whom perhaps we share little in common, but whose talent we can identify. When we harness such talent and energy, we must accept we may be running the same track, but we don’t all encounter the same hurdles. When you understand what the hurdles of systemic inequity look like and feel like for colleagues who are racially minoritised, you can bring colleagues into your lane and make it a journey that is more equitable; one from which we all benefit.”

On a similar theme about the importance of people, Mandy Coulter considers priorities for your Trust’s people strategy: "For our people strategies, there are some key issues that must be our focus medium-term to ensure our workforce across schools emerges from the pandemic resilient and stable.”  Circling back to CST’s codification of a strong Trust, we argue that workforce resilience and wellbeing is absolutely essential to building robustness, particularly in a post-Covid-19 world. And of course part of a people strategy is the ability to properly remunerate our leaders in a way that preserves regularity and propriety – the ability to benchmark pay, which is the theme of Jennie Jakubowski’s article.

And Cathy Anwar builds on the theme of the importance of people and workforce resilience, extending the principle to the wellbeing of our children. She makes the case for moral purpose: "Many Trust leaders share high levels of autonomy, are constantly-learning experts in their field and are driven by the deep and true purposes of civic leadership, public service and social justice. I’d suggest that, despite the tough challenges we face on a daily basis – and particularly in the last 2 years – many of us are self-motivated, have a strong sense of personal agency, and are privileged to love the work we do.”

If Mandy argues for people power, then Sir Jon Coles makes the case for the power of technology. In a stinging indictment of the impact of a distinct lack of curiosity about technology, Sir Jon says: "For many years the debate in educational technology was too often a debate of the deliberately deaf. On the one hand, the uncritical lovers who saw in EdTech a solution to all ills; on the other, the hostile witnesses who saw the use of technology as no better than a very expensive ‘Brain Gym’ – unevidenced, wasteful and a distraction.”  He goes on to make a powerful argument for effective digital strategies.

Finally, in this charming article from our National Schools Commissioner, Dominic Herrington is curious about the reality on the ground in our schools. He charts his day as a Teaching Assistant: "‘Are you new?’ A pair of Year 3 eyes looked up at me as I attempted to help with lunchtime duty last week in my local primary school. It was a reminder of the refreshing lack of inhibition and pure curiosity in young children.”